9 ways to reduce energy bills and save money this winter
Despite the lower energy price cap taking effect this month, there are concerns that households will still pay 13% more*1 for their energy than last winter as the government hasn’t announced any plans for additional financial support. The cap on a unit of gas and electricity should reduce the average bill from £2,074 to £1,923 for the three months from October 1 in England, Wales and Scotland. However, this is still more than 50% higher than pre-pandemic levels. As countries started to recover from the pandemic, demand for gas increased but couldn’t be met due to a supply shortage, pushing prices up. The war in Ukraine adversely impacted supply too - pushing prices even higher.
These increases in energy costs, coupled with higher fuel and food bills, have meant that many people are already facing bills which are more than they can afford. So to help reduce costs, here are nine impactful changes that can be implemented at home in order to reduce bills and save money over the long term:
1. Reduce energy and save money with your laundry
Over the years, washing machines have become more energy efficient. Despite this, they are often one of the most frequently used appliances in the home, and while they may be convenient - especially for larger families - they use a lot of water and can be expensive to run. This is especially true if you’re putting a wash on at peak times during the day. However, you could save around £27 a year*2 just by making a few simple changes:
● Use your washing machine early in the morning, before 7am, or late at night, if possible, to avoid the surge in price. Electricity demand is highest between 7am and 9am when most people are waking up and after school or work between 3pm and 6pm. Avoiding these peak times will save money on each wash.
● Make sure that the washing machine is completely full before turning it on, as well as trying to reduce usage to just one wash a week, if at all possible, in order to save money. If you do have to put on a smaller wash, you could try washing clothes on the shortest cycle (often referred to as a ‘quick wash’), which means less water, less energy, a shorter spin cycle and a lower temperature.
● Running your cycles on a 30-degree ‘eco mode’ wash will use less water and energy during the wash (unless your clothes are really dirty, in which case you’ll need a higher temperature wash). However, if you mainly run low temperature washes, you’ll need to do the occasional hot wash to get rid of any bacteria and the build up of odours in the machine.
2. Draught-proof your home
Draught-proofing your home and topping up the insulation in your loft is one of the simplest ways to save money and energy. While it may not be too cold yet, it’s best to be prepared and start getting your home’s insulation set up in time for the winter weather. Better insulation helps reduce the amount of energy you’re using overall, including what you use for heating your home. Moreover, a quarter of your home’s heat is lost through the roof, so keeping this warm air inside means your home will stay warmer for longer and you won’t be wasting energy and money. Adding insulation by DIY fitting foam insulation around exposed hot water pipes could cost as little as £15 and the more you add, the more money you’ll save.
Many homes have gaps around doors and windows which can result in heat escaping from your home. If you stop this heat escaping, you could save yourself up to £50 a year*3. It’s also worth noting that if you have an open chimney, draught-proofing it with an inflatable pillow when it’s not in use could save a further £70 a year*4.
Another money-saving tip would be to purchase draught excluders, which can be placed along any doors with gaps to keep the heat in, along with sealant strips installed around the windows. This will ensure they have a tight seal to keep the heat in.
Just remember that when you are adding insulation to your home or draught-proofing gaps - you do need some ventilation in the home so make sure you aren’t covering up holes that are supposed to be there like trickle vents in window frames.
3. Invest in energy-efficient features
Installing a few additional features to your home can be an effective way of saving money on your energy bills. For example, investing in thermostatic radiator valves can help control the temperature of individual radiators so you can make sure you’re only heating the rooms you actually need. This reduces the volume of hot water going to the radiators, using less energy and helping save you money.
Other cost effective measures could include switching incandescent bulbs for more energy efficient LED lighting, which could save you as much as £40 a year - and they last a lot longer too. Another inexpensive feature to consider is installing an energy efficient shower head, which regulates the water flow to reduce the amount you use when showering.
If you’re in the market for a new appliance such as a refrigerator, washing machine or tumble dryer, choosing one with a rating of A+ or above (A+++ is the top rating) will ensure that it’s more energy efficient but also kinder to the environment too.
4. Review your energy bills
Many of us won’t be able to save money by switching energy tariffs or providers at the moment as there are very few suppliers offering cheaper energy deals. However, there are still things consumers can do to save money on their bills.
Some providers will charge an admin fee for paper bills, which you could save by switching to online billing. If you’re currently receiving paper bills, ask if your supplier can change to paperless bills and see if you can manage your bills online instead, if possible.
Paying by direct debit is usually the cheapest option as some providers will offer savings for those who move to direct debit. However, if your supplier wants to increase your direct debit by more than you can manage or are expecting, ask them to explain why.
Finally, sending your provider regular meter readings will keep your payments accurate and prevent estimated bills, which can sometimes be quite high. If you have a smart meter, it will send meter readings automatically but you can double check this on your smart meter or by checking with your provider to make sure you aren’t being given estimated bills.
5. Save money and energy when drying clothes
It might be worth upgrading your dryer to an eco-friendly heat pump dryer to save energy and money. A tumble dryer uses a lot of energy, particularly if it is inefficient. One load in an electrical tumble dryer costs around 49p, while an A-rated heat-pump dryer costs around 14p per load. If you do have a tumble dryer, cleaning the lint filters every time you use the machine can help save money. A blocked filter stops the air from circulating freely and takes clothes a lot longer to dry.
If you’d prefer to dry your clothes naturally, this can save you the most money. However, make sure you don’t hang wet clothes on radiators to dry as this can cause condensation and cause the radiators to run inefficiently, costing you more money in the long run. Use a clothes horse instead or outside on a washing line, if you can.
6. Energy-saving tips for your heating
Having an energy-efficient heating system that can be controlled easily will help reduce heating bills as it won’t need to work as hard to heat your home. In addition, turning the thermostat down by just one degree could save you around £145 a year*5 on your heating bills.
Try to set the timer to only come on when you’re at home and need the heating on in order to avoid wasting energy. It’s worth noting that lots of companies offer advanced smart controls for heating systems that connect to the internet. Similar to a timer, but more advanced, these can help you change timings remotely. Adding smart controls to your heating can give you the freedom to change your settings remotely, so you’ll only use energy when it’s really needed.
When heating your home, a cheap way to help keep the heat in is to add some reflector panels behind your radiators. These will help spread the heat around quicker as the panels reflect the heat back into the room, keeping you warmer for longer.
7. Keep your appliances clean
Households are busy places and while we all strive to keep on top of general cleaning, you may not have the time to regularly deep clean every corner of the home. But did you know that dirt can have an impact on the efficiency of your larger appliances?
For example large appliances, like fridges, cookers, dryers, dishwashers or washing machines, can gather dust or become dirty over time. This can impact their energy-efficiency, resulting in higher energy bills as they’ll need more energy to run. One example of this are fridge filters, which need to be kept clean to run properly. Dusting the condenser coils regularly can help your refrigerator run as much as 25% more efficiently*6.
In addition, older appliances won’t be as energy-efficient as newer ones which will be costing you money as they’ll be working much harder and using more energy. If you can afford to do so, it may be worth upgrading to a newer, more energy-efficient model where possible. You will need to balance the cost of a new appliance with the potential savings to see if it’s worthwhile switching.
For example, an older boiler won’t be working efficiently and will make your home more expensive to heat over winter. You can get a new energy-efficient boiler from £22 a month through Money Expert, which includes installation and a 10-year warranty to keep costs low. It’s always worth protecting your appliances with emergency breakdown cover from a site like Money Expert too. This keeps it running smoothly and gives you peace of mind should it break down completely.
8. Get the most out of your kettle
Some of us overfill the kettle when we’re making a brew, however, this can cost you money and energy. Try and only boil the amount of water that you need. Most kettles now have a low minimum-fill line, and switch off as soon as they’ve boiled. You could go one step further and boil a full kettle in the morning and pour the remaining water into a large thermos flask to keep it warm for the rest of the day. This will save you boiling the kettle several times throughout the day to save you money and energy.
An older kettle will need to work harder and be on longer to boil the water you need. So if you have an older model, it may be time to switch to a newer energy-efficient model which will help you make savings in the long run. Remember to keep your kettle clean by descaling it regularly – if it’s full of limescale, you’ll be using more energy to boil the water, which can add to your energy bills.
9. Switch off vampire devices
The term, ’vampire device’, is used to describe electrical devices that continue to drain power when they’re plugged in but not actually being used, such as leaving a television on standby. Although this may be convenient, it will be contributing to your already increasing energy bill. And whilst it may not seem like a major problem in the short term, over the course of a year the aggregate cost of leaving multiple devices on standby can add a noticeable extra amount onto your bills.
Some of the most common ‘vampire devices’ include microwaves, computer monitors, coffee machines, white goods and chargers. Some devices like a modem or a fridge do need to be kept on 24/7, but most electronic devices can be turned off at the plug when not in use in order to save money. By turning these off you could save up to £147 a year*7.
How to seek help if you’re struggling to pay
For some, simply cutting down on usage or making small changes won’t save enough in order to make their energy bills more affordable. Some households may need extra help or support to pay their energy bills. If this is the case, contact your energy supplier as soon as possible.
Talking about it with your provider may feel like the last thing you want to do, but it’s the best way to get help. Your options could include agreeing a payment plan to pay each month by direct debit, signing up for a different tariff, more time to pay, payment breaks or they may have grants and schemes or hardship funds you could access. Energy suppliers have to take certain steps before cutting off your supply so if you’re honest with them, they will help you find ways to pay first.
For immediate help if you are in an urgent financial crisis there are many organisations and charities that can help provide support too including Citizens Advice, MoneyHelper, National Energy Action, National Debtline and StepChange.